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    Home / College Guide / ‘I Love The GMAT’: This GMAT Doctor Has Diagnosed More Than 4,000 Test Takers
     Posted on Monday, June 17 @ 00:00:10 PDT

    ‘I Love The GMAT’: This GMAT Doctor Has Diagnosed More Than 4,000 Test Takers John A. Byrne June 17, 2024 at 4:58 AM · 14 min read Link Copied Chris Kane, GMAT tutor Chris Kane, head of test prep and a vice president of Menlo Coaching In his 20 years of coaching people on the GMAT, Chris Kane has more than met Malcolm Gladwell’s popular dictum that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something. Having guided and coached nearly 5,000 GMAT test takers, he boasts the accumulated knowledge and experience of a seasoned doctor treating health problems. “Think of me as the GMAT Doctor who can figure out what a person is doing wrong on this test,” says Kane, the 53-year-old head of test prep and a vice president at Menlo Coaching . “When I get my knee replaced in five years, I am going to the person who has done the most knee replacements. It is the doctor who is in that sweet spot of having a lot of experience but is not set in his ways. He is not too old, and he is not too young.” That would be Kane, who first entered the business of test prep in 2004 with Veritas Prep in New York City. “I have tutored brilliant people from all over the world, and I have seen every way you can think about these test problems,” he says.

    “People don’t get to learn from their students the way I have. The volume of tutoring is where I became an expert. That is the 10,000-hour business.” ‘I AM THE SUM TOTAL OF THE THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE I TUTORED’ Kane is that rare person whose eyes light up when talking about standardized tests, even more so when it’s the GMAT which he considers one of the best-designed standardized tests that anyone can take. “It is my job to diagnose what you need, prescribe the right drugs for improvement, and choose the problems that are going to help you the most,” he says, as if he were a practicing MD. “I am the sum total of the thousands of people I tutored.” From an idyllic perch in Bar Harbor, Maine, a place known for its natural beauty in Acadia National Park, he tutors his students via Zoom. Though he spent nearly a decade tutoring students in their apartments and in New York’s investment banks, Kane is most at home in Maine where he has spent the last seven years in a house he built with his own hands. When it comes to the debate between the GMAT and the GRE, Kane has a clear preference. He has a deep belief that the GMAT Yosemite National Park is an exquisite test. “I love the GMAT,” he says emphatically.

    “I love what it assesses. I know there are problems with standardized tests, but it is less true of the GMAT. When I think about the best standardized tests, it comes down to the GMAT and the LSAT. I have done this for 20 years because I believe what the GMAT is testing is very valuable. I see many false positives in standardized tests: people who did well and got lucky. But with the GMAT, I can think of literally a few cases.” IF YOU GREW UP IN A LOWER SOCIOECONOMIC NEIGHBORHOOD, YOU ARE AT A DISADVANTAGE WITH THE GMAT Chris Kane of Menlo Coaching Chris Kane of Menlo Coaching Of course, he has heard all the complaints about whether standardized tests in general are biased against women, minorities and international students who read and speak English as a second language. Kane agrees that there are unfair biases in the tests. “There are people who don’t do well but should be admitted to the top programs,” he believes. “Let’s imagine you are a brilliant kid growing up in a difficult school system in a lower socioeconomic neighborhood and you get a really bad education. You are at an immediate disadvantage with the quality of your underlying education. To some degree, a standardized test is an assessment of your education broadly.

    It is pretty hard to re-learn a lot of the underlying math for a test like this, even if you are an incredibly brilliant person. It can be a little unfair in that regard.” Regardless, he strongly believes that the GMAT, including the most recent shorter version of the test, is a superior exam to the GRE. “I have always said that a lot of the complaints with standardized tests are valid because they are poorly made,” believes Kane. “There is nothing worse than a poorly made standardized test, like state assessment exams. Teachers are frustrated because they have to teach to a test that is poorly made. When you have a well-made standardized test like the GMAT, that makes you think the right way, it’s great.” WHY HE THINKS THE GMAT IS SUPERIOR TO THE GRE Kane turns thumbs down on the GRE which has gained significant market share over the GMAT for business school admissions. “The GRE is too general a test in my opinion,” he says flatly. “It’s a test for people going to get MFAs in poetry and this huge range of graduate education so it’s a weird test that way. You are competing against people who are going on to do very different things. The quant section is less difficult to be sure and it feels a little bit more like a math test.

    There is less reasoning. When people struggle with the GMAT quant they can often do better on the quant GRE. The verbal is different. However, I am not sure how important that is for predicting a person’s success in business school. At its core. Some of the GRE content like geometry is so far removed from anything you do in business. So it is a weird choice for solving business problems.” “The GMAT,” he continues, “predicts who is going to perform well in business school and who you want to sit next to in the top MBA programs. What they are assessing is the way you think. Are you hyper-vigilant and good at being critical? Can you deal with problem-solving? And at the same time, it is a test to make sure you have the requisite skills to get through a rigorous MBA program. “ There’s only one thing about the updated GMAT that he finds perplexing. The change in scoring has made it much more difficult to score above 750. A 750 on the old GMAT, which put a test taker in the 98th percentile, will convert to just a 695 on the new GMAT Focus Edition. Instead of a top score of 800, the new GMAT now has a top score of 805. WHAT THIS GMAT TUTOR DOESN’T UNDERSTAND ABOUT THE GMAT FOCUS EDITION “It’s the one part of this shift to the GMAT Focus edition that I have a hard time understanding.

    ,” he says. “To get to that elite 49, you have to get an 84 on the new scale system and there are still six points above that to differentiate. You can take a little bit less time to prep and focus more on problem-solving skills. Data insights are still evolving. I am getting reports from students who say that the questions differed greatly from the practice tests. So that is still changing and they made some big changes in their question distribution. More data sufficiency now than before. It won’t settle into what it is going to be until the end of this year.” One thing is certain: A mistake on the new test is more costly than ever before. “They are definitely using a new scoring algorithm with the new test that allows them to score you with fewer items,” says Kane. “You can’t make mistakes on this new test. You’ve got 21 questions on the quant side and if you miss easy or moderate questions it is really punishing because there are fewer items to assess. In chess, when you lose to a bad player, it really hurts you. When you lose to an easy-to-moderate question, it hurts you on a computer adaptive test. Your floor is much more important than your ceiling.” Another big difference in his view? “Before yo had to nail two sections, quant and verbal.

    The writing didn’t matter that much. Now you need to nail it on three different sections and if you have a bad day on one section your score is going to be negatively impacted. I am seeing more variability in scoring than before.” Kane, who does one-on-one tutoring at $450 an hour as well as GMAT prep classes with Menlo’s Director of Tutoring Hailey Cusimano, says it doesn’t take all that much work to help a client achieve his or her goals. “I can usually provide what I need in no more than 14 hours of tutoring,” he says. “This is with a lot of self-study provided. As soon as a session is done, clients get their recording and I assign them a to-do list until the next session. Tutoring should have a super high-value takeaway. A great challenge is always trying to figure out how can I get the score up for this one person. I am going to work very hard to get you where you need to go. I am very confident in my approach.” HOW TO TAKE A GMAT PREP COURSE OR GET KANE AS A TUTOR DON’T MISS: ADVANCED GMAT PREPARATION FOR TOP PERCENTILE SCORES Chris Kane, Menlo Coaching Chris Kane on Tangerine Trip, El Capitan, Yosemite National Park ‘I JUST TOOK THE GMAT COLD’ Like so many professionals, he sort of stumbled into the field.

    An avid mountain climber, he spent half his time in Yosemite National Park while an undergraduate student at Stanford University. Kane worked on the search-and-rescue team, an experience that naturally led him to guide climbers. After earning his BA in 1993, he sat for the GMAT, thinking that business school might be an option. At the time, the exam was still a paper-and-pencil test. “I just took the GMAT cold,” recalls Kane. “I got high scores all my life in standardized tests. I just like the way you have to think for these tests. I got a 760 the first time taking it, a 99th percentile score.” Despite his impressive showing on the test, he rejected the idea of an MBA and decided to follow his passion. Kane launched a guiding business at the age of 23, ultimately spending a full decade guiding climbers up and down the rocky cliffs of Acadia National Park in Maine. AN EXPERIENCED ROCK CLIMBER WHO BECAME A GMAT TUTOR Kane moved to New York City and concedes he was “a little lost about what to do” so he finally applied and got into business school. Before starting his MBA, however, he spotted an ad from a firm called Veritas Prep and decided to answer it. Given his GMAT test score, his Stanford undergraduate degree, and his experience as a guide, Kane was quickly interviewed, in part because the father of a Veritas co-founder, Marcus Moberg, was a climber.

    “He saw my resume and said, ‘I got to talk to this guy.’ Marcus and I really hit it off. Hired to teach some of the larger GMAT classes in New York. Kane was a natural teacher. “I loved it and took right to it,” he remembers. “It was the same job as guiding and rock climbing. It is taking people and getting people through something that is very uncomfortable. I did a lot of one-on-one guiding.” ‘TEST PREP COMPANIES PREY ON THE FACT THAT WE ARE USED TO CONTENT TESTS’ He loved it so much, in fact, that he decided not to go for that MBA. “That was in 2004. I was never one to work in Corporate America. I was lucky to start doing it in New York where I got to work with so many smart people. I learned so much about preparing people the right way.” Kane left Veritas in 2019 after 15 years of tutoring after the firm was acquired by Varsity Tutors. He built his own curriculum and began teaching online courses and tutoring on his own until joining up with MBA admissions consultant Menlo Coaching in 2020. Not surprisingly, perhaps, he does not have a favorable view of most test prep companies. “They really prey on the fact that we are used to content tests,” he says.

    “People think if they beat this test into submission by practicing they will do well. I don’t believe that is true. You have to solve the right problems and get the right takeaways. If you are not getting the proper takeaways to solve each problem, you are not going to improve” (see Kane’s How To Create A Realistic GMAT Study Plan ). THE CONS AND TRAPS IN THE GMAT EXAM Higher education flows deeply in his veins. His father first moved to Maine to help start a liberal arts college in the state back in the 1970s. His cousin’s husband has a PhD in education from Harvard. “He is just fascinated by this whole part of learning and what is missing from improvement in education. Everyone I teach is a college graduate and these people are scoring in the 90th percentile among highly educated people. It is what has kept me in this game for so long because it is always intellectually engaging. The fact that I get to teach these brilliant people fills me with gratitude.” What he discovered in tutoring some 5,000 people is that most are more comfortable preparing for a content test with rote memorization. “They think that if they just memorize these things, they will do well. One woman I tutored was one of the most brilliant math minds I ever had in a class.

    She went through the course, took the test, and didn’t perform that well in the quant. What I quickly realized in tutoring her was that she wasn’t dealing with that con component of the math. There is a lot of critical thinking. She was not focusing on that. She focused on the math. What it proves is that just having the quant doesn’t get you to the elite level and sometimes it doesn’t get you to the gold standard of a 49.” In another instance, Kane recalls tutoring a student in New York. “He knew everything. A week before the exam, I saw him for the last session and he looked like he had the flu. If he had taken it one more time, he would have gotten a 750 but he got a 690 and it was all test day anxiety. Because he didn’t do well the first time. He ended up going to Booth. I did help him but it was hard and it took a few tries.” THE GMAT; A QUESTION OF A THOUSAND BRILLIANT CONS Yet another client who already was enrolled in a PhD program and had exceptional math skills struggled on the GMAT. “It was because the person treated it as a math test when it is a quantitative reasoning test,” explains Kane. “A great challenge is always trying to figure out how can I get the score up for this one person.

    You are not always going to have success. Some of that can be test day anxiety. We use a few mindfulness coaches and that is helpful.“ In tutoring clients, Kane unravels what he calls the “cons” and “traps” in the test. “For the quant,” he says, “you need to know what you need to know and very few people come in knowing what they need to know. If you haven’t done math since fifth grade, you need a refresh. It’s not hard math but you need to know it well. I am not doing a lot of rote repetition. I focus on what a person is most likely to make mistakes on. I give them smart drills that elicit the errors they would make on a GMAT question. “By doing the right problems,” Kane adds, “you are improving your know-how but more importantly you are seeking the tricks and traps. If you want to use an analogy, it’s a question of a thousand brilliant cons. How does a con work? If you think about a great con man, you think about something that happens that you get a dopamine response. You find something clever that leads you to what you think is a correct problem. Because everyone is satisfied that they found the trap, they let down their guard.” Kane coaches clients not to fall for those GMAT cons.

    It’s something he greatly enjoys and forsees doing for many more years. “I am an experienced doctor now, and I will always tutor,” he says. “You’ve got to be in the game. HOW TO TAKE A GMAT PREP COURSE OR GET KANE AS A TUTOR DON’T MISS: ADVANCED GMAT PREPARATION FOR TOP PERCENTILE SCORES The post ‘I Love The GMAT’: This GMAT Doctor Has Diagnosed More Than 4,000 Test Takers appeared first on Poets&Quants . View comments

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